Rev. Dr. Thomas Bland, Sr. died this past Saturday, at the age of 85. He had been sick for quite a while, but we won’t remember him for those last years of illness — we’ll remember the exemplary life he lived, and the way his teaching and his ministry promoted the spiritual health of others.

Dr. Bland was a husband and a father, a scholar and a gentleman, a pastor and a teacher, and he excelled in every role. He is probably best known for the 37 years he spent teaching ethics and sociology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, but many of us also cherish the many years he devoted to pastoral work and the planting of new churches.

I never took a class under Dr. Bland when I was at Southeastern, but I did follow him as pastor of Woodhaven Baptist Church near Apex, one of four churches for which he was the founding pastor (the others are Holly Hill in Burlington, Greystone in North Raleigh, and Triangle in southern Wake County).

While others might relish the acclaim of planting new churches, Dr. Bland declined to draw attention to himself. At Woodhaven, while laboring for two years to get the church off to a good start, he always referred to himself as the “interim pastor.” He was not only skilled at helping new churches develop, but wise and respectful enough to keep his distance after the first “permanent” pastor was called. He was always supportive and would come back, when invited, for special occasions, but never meddled or interfered with his successor’s work.

Tom and Eunice were a wonderful pair who were as committed to each other as to God and their children. Many will rise up and call both of them blessed: I am privileged to be among those who have benefited from their kindness.

Indeed, when I think of the word “kindness,” Dr. Bland comes to mind as often as not. For that and so many other reasons, I am grateful.

[A memorial service for Dr. Bland will be held at Greystone Baptist Church on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 11:00 a.m.]

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